By Julie Ann Madden
Two of the three District No. 16 state legislators met with Union County Commissioners at their Dec. 27 meeting.
Representative Jim Bolin told them he felt the two biggest issues facing the state were the expansion of Medicaid services and the impending federal fiscal cliff. Noting if U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama failed to come to an agreement by midnight Dec. 31, there were budget cut agreements from 2011 that would go into effect. Therefore, South Dakota would be facing a $35 to $50 million reduction in federal dollars. Several budget items, including school funding and heating assistance program, would be reduced 5 to 15 percent.
Nothing would be totally eliminated but some would lose much financial support, said Bolin, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, adding he thinks the state should try to fund some 100 percent for the first year.
We just don’t know what will happen until the federal legislators make a decision, he said, adding it could be even after the state legislature ends in March and the governor would have to call them back.
Governor Dennis Daugaard is not recommending expanding Medicaid services. Currently, most are children of single moms and elderly in nursing homes who have run out of money. The expansion proposal was to offer Medicaid services to those with incomes of 135 percent of poverty. This would most benefit single adults whose incomes fall below this level. Bolin noted medical facilities like hospitals are in favor of the expansion.
It’s highly likely the state will agree to pay travel expenses for Veterans Service Officers, he said, but will not pay for their salaries as Daugaard feels it’s totally the counties’ responsibility as until 1977, VSO salaries had been totally funded by counties. Since then, the state has picked up 20 percent.
Bolin noted the governor has about $26 million still left to divvy up, and as the district’s legislator, he favors giving school districts the whole 3.2 percent inflationary rate increase. Right now, school funding is set to increase just 3 percent. The remaining 0.02 percent equals about $2 million. He also hopes state legislators can maintain Capital Outlay funding.
Representative Patty Miller, who is beginning her second term, will be serving on the Taxation Committee and Commerce Committee and not on the Education Committee.
Karpen requested legislators give more notice of committee meeting changes so that people living nearly five hours from Pierre can adjust their schedule to come listen and/or testify before the committees. He also thanked them for passage of the license plate fee increase.
Commissioners were not in favor of having cities and school districts approve county Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) districts, and at the same time, the county is “very conservative” on approving TIFs, said Karpen.
Miller suggested commissioners see the movie, “Lincoln.”
In other business, Commissioners:
• Unanimously approved travel authorization for Union County Auditor Carol Klumper and Union County States Attorney Jerry Miller to attend a training on the state’s welfare program;
• Unanimously approved the hiring of Assessor’s Office Administrative Assistant Tara Moreland at an annual salary of $24,533.
• Unanimously agreed to transfer $32,000 from the county’s General Fund to the Emergency Management Administration budget and $119,987.45 to the county’s Highway Snow Reserve Fund. These dollars were Federal Emergency Management Agency dollars.
Public Works Director Raymond Roggow presented the complete list of 2011 Flood FEMA Project Worksheets for Dakota Dunes, Union County and townships within the county. He noted there is no time line as to when the rest of the FEMA dollars approved for Union County to receive will actually come.
• Also approved the transfer of automatic grant supplements, totaling $3,079.20. The Jail Budget received $2,075.48, the Sheriff’s Budget, $828.72 and Emergency Management Administration, $175.
Furthermore, the commissioners unanimously approved transferring the following Contingency Fund dollars to these accounts: Public Defender, $6,500; Jail, $23,000; Flood Control, $27,500; and Veterans Service Office, $120. The total from Contingency was $57,120.
• Received a report from Roggow about the first meeting with engineers to develop a Master Plan for the proposed highway department building. HMN Architect Steve W. Davis and G.A. Johnson Construction Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Gerald Johnson will bring back a plan incorporating the ideas discussed. It was noted commissioners toured Minnehaha County’s new highway department facility in Sioux Falls during the district meeting of county officials.
• Learned Miller is creating a welfare program book to be approved by commissioners. He is vice-president of the association which is reviewing welfare program policies and revising the state’s Catastrophic Program procedures. Miller told them one suggested change was to have the Catastrophic Program Board review and approve welfare program claims more than $20,000. If this suggestion had been in place, it could have saved South Dakota counties about $500,000. Miller also has recommended a commissioner to serve on the Catastrophic Board.
• Received three delinquent tax payment agreements from Union County Treasurer Myron Hertel.
Two were approved and the third was denied. The one denied was already in the tax deed process where the county takes the property for back taxes. The property has six years of delinquent taxes owed at this time. The property has changed hands at least twice in the last six years with the current owner being the same owner who originally started the delinquent tax process. It was noted this property has a $230,000 construction lien on it.
Commissioners questioned how a building permit could be issued when it is in tax arrears and a lien is on the property. It was discovered this property is within the city limits of Beresford and county officials did not issue or have any authority over the building permits. One concern was this could be an example of what has been happening in counties in western South Dakota where one owner purchases the property, doesn’t pay taxes but makes income off of it until he/she loses it on tax deed, then another person buys it, does the same and sells it to another or the same owner purchases it again. This scheme robs counties of the property’s tax dollars.
Hertel also informed the commission he is conducting applicant interviews for the position in the Treasurer’s Office.